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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Unions primed for war opposition
George Galloway and Saddam Hussein, as shown on Iraqi TV
Galloway has visited Iraq several times
Trade union activists are planning to embarrass Tony Blair with votes against military action over Iraq, it is reported.

The suggestion comes after maverick Labour MP George Galloway met a "calm but determined" Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

Any action could destabilise the areas while costing British lives and putting our economy at risk

Steve Pickering
GMB union

UK ministers say no decisions on military action to tackle Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction build-up have been taken.

On Thursday the opposition Conservatives joined those calling for parliament to be recalled if a decision was made over action against Iraq.

David Davis, who is Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's opposite number, said the government must be accountable to Parliament on such key matters.

After his meeting with Saddam Hussein, Mr Galloway said the Iraqi leader seemed determined to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis but was equally determined to fight if attacked.

Move quickly

"I found him to be calm, very calm indeed, but determined," said Mr Galloway, who has long campaigned for UN sanctions on Iraq to be lifted.

He said the Iraqi leadership did not believe war with the US was inevitable "but if we are to avert it, we'll have to move quickly".

Earlier, in a defiant television address, Saddam Hussein said he was not frightened by US threats to topple him and warned that those who attacked Iraq would be "digging their own graves".

Tony Lloyd, former Foreign Office Minister
Tony Lloyd says war would prompt a public outcry
He said he sought an "equitable dialogue" with the United Nations.

According to King Abdullah of Jordan, who visited the UK last week, Mr Blair has "tremendous" concerns about the impact a war could have.

Conference confrontation

Several Labour MPs have spoken out against attacking Iraq, as have the leaders of the UK's major trade unions.

And trade unions are trying to force a vote on the issue at Labour's annual conference in Blackpool, which starts at the end of September, says the Times newspaper.

Labour officials have in the past blocked potentially embarrassing debates using conference rules that say motions must be "contemporary".

Mike O'Brien, Foreign Office Minister
Mike O'Brien: War neither inevitable nor imminent

Tam Dalyell, the veteran Labour MP who has been an outspoken critic of any war plans, said the issue would be raised in Blackpool.

"I understand that emergency motions are flooding in from constituency parties," Mr Dalyell told the Guardian newspaper.

Most of the motions called for Parliament debate before possible action, which could only be undertaken through a new United Nations resolution, said Mr Dalyell.

Economy worries

Union leaders may also try to press their war opposition at next month's TUC conference.

No specific motions are tabled but an emergency debate or an amendment to an existing resolution about peace and security policy is now seen as likely.

Steve Pickering, deputy general secretary of the GMB union, said he was worried military action could destabilise the Middle East, cost British lives and put the UK economy at risk.

"We urge the government to be cautious and consult widely before proceeding further," said Mr Pickering.

Public opposition?

Former Labour Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd warned of the consequences if the UK "drifted" into war without proper answers to concerns.

"There will be an enormous outcry, certainly among backbench Labour MPs in Parliament, and much more widely among a public whose revenge takes place at the ballot box," Mr Lloyd wrote in the New Statesman magazine.

In a cooling of the rhetoric, President George Bush this week promised to consult widely before action was taken and to be patient.

The UK's emphasis has been on weapons inspections while senior US figures have spoken of "regime change" being the goal.

Washington officials are meeting Iraqi opposition groups on Friday.

Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien said military action was neither imminent nor inevitable.

Signalling a different stance from the US, Mr O'Brien said the ball was in Saddam Hussein's court but allowing weapons inspections would make the situation very different.

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See also:

08 Aug 02 | Politics
08 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Politics
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
06 Aug 02 | Politics
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